ASHLAND • There's a new person at the helm of Benton County Schools, but she is no stranger to the district.
Dr. LaKimberly Hobson officially took over as Superintendent of Education on Jan. 1. Hobson, who has been with the district for 10 years, previously served as principal of Ashland High School, curriculum coordinator, and most recently assistant superintendent.
She said that she never had aspirations to be the superintendent and it wasn't until Candace Sanders, the district's administrative assistant, was diagnosed with cancer that she started thinking seriously about applying for the position.
"When the criteria for superintendent was released, and we knew we were going to be hiring an appointed superintendent, we knew our options would be limited," said Hobson. "And to be honest, I was willing to stay where I was. I was touching the lives of my students and I knew I was. But then my good friend here (Sanders) was diagnosed with cancer. We took turns taking her to the West Cancer Center and I was sitting there one day and it hit me. She’s the administrative assistant. Any person who comes into this district, any new superintendent, she’s the first to go. Because they want to bring in someone they know and trust. I couldn’t let that happen. So the reason I am the superintendent is because of Candace Sanders and CANCER!
Hobson said the district has a lot of hard working people who have invested their lives, their passion and their love into Benton County Schools.
"Someone from the outside would not understand that commitment and what we have done to get where we are now. So it would have been very unfair, and in my opinion unethical, to not save people who I know are in the best interest of our kids."
Hobson said before she applied for the position, because of the long hours and commitment involved, she talked it over with her husband, Henry.
"This job is not 8 to 5 or 7 to 4. This job is a charge. It’s a commitment and those commitments are not measured by hours. If you are going to make an impact, you can’t watch the hands on the clock. I am committed to Benton County, and have been for the past 10 years, to making sure that every student that I come into contact with is better because I did."
Hobson said one of her major goals for the district is to ensure every student is empowered, equipped and educated for what lies ahead, whether it be four-year college, community college, work or trade.
"I want them to be empowered enough to speak, educated enough to know exactly what they are talking about, and equipped enough for whatever life throws at them."
One of the key elements the district has come up with to meet that goal is the creation of a network of command. Hobson says that entails everyone operating and communicating for what is best for the district's children. She said that instead working in their own divisions, they are working holistically to ensure that student's needs are met at every point of the triangle.
"We have some consultants working at Hickory Flat that are doing an excellent job," said Hobson. "So why are we not using them on this end too? That makes no sense to me. We are one district, so we need to make sure the resources that are benefiting our students are benefiting all of our students. I only think that happened because there was a lack of communication. Once we found that out, it was just a matter of making that work."
Hobson said the district is also creating learning walks where principals from different schools, teachers and leadership members will go and walk through classrooms and make suggestions for instructors.
"We will make suggestions on things that we saw that were great and things that we saw that were areas of improvement ... We are seeing the same thing but have different ideas on what it looked like. This gives us an opportunity to really discuss those differences that we see and those similarities that we share. I’m really excited about that."
Hobson says she has received a lot of support in her new role so far. "I’m an out-of-the-box thinker and always have been. When you are dealing with a small school district you have to be able to think creatively and effectively. When I come to someone and ask them to do something out of their comfort zone, they are trusting me enough to lead them in the right direction. That trust is something I do not take for granted."
"Do I now have aspirations to be a superintendent? Nope! But I have aspirations to be a team player and we all have a role to play and my role is no more important than anyone else’s role. At the end of the day, all of our roles working collectively for the betterment of our students is what is going to make Benton County Schools an A," concluded Hobson.
Hobson is originally from Osyka. She and her husband live in Desoto County. They have five sons. The youngest two, three-year-old Harper and six-year-old Henry David, live at home. She also has a rescue cat, Snowy. She received her Bachelor of Science from Millsaps College, her Master of Science from the University of Mississippi, and her Specialist and Doctorate degrees from Union University.